Sadly, this is not a rhetorical question.
Throughout the pandemic time, I and many others I know have gone through personal transformations. Some have been compelled to protest after George Floyd was killed or have started organizations dedicated to making this country a better place for all, not just those who have gotten accustomed to a certain way of applying “law and order.” All these actions grew from humbling ourselves and recognizing what others have endured so that ultimately white men (and women) could remain comfortable.
Now there has been an event representing the ultimate backlash. Last Wednesday, thousands of people gathered from across the entire country, aided in organizing by the social media tech companies and police/security officers to send a deliberate signal that they would rather destroy and ravage public property, damage our public institutions and potentially topple our entire system of democracy because they preferred an alternative election outcome. I do not entirely blame these people and, in fact, if the only people who experience consequences for this event are those who actively participated, we have missed the mark. There MUST be ramifications for all who aided and abetted the front-line of terrorist yahoos as well. But is that that even possible anymore?
Have we gone (been pushed) so far down the road of division that we are passed the point of no return? We still have many people so confused and spun up around the coronavirus and the vaccine that has been developed to resolve the pandemic that they still refuse to take any action to save others’ lives. They are so self-centered that they cannot see how their actions really will kill people, or they’ve just been conditioned not to care.
And here I am, falling into the same “us/them” trap. And it is a trap. We are all human and we are all American. Shouldn’t I be using my empathy skills to try to “see where others are coming from?” To “put myself in their shoes?” The shoes of the less educated, less “woke,” less tolerant? I’m not sure I can get there. If one has no interest in even listening or learning about someone else’s experience of the world that is SOOOOOO different from one’s own, that person has opened themselves up to being manipulated and brought to action in nefarious ways. That is how the system works, it is stochastic terrorism and it is at the core of what is currently “American-style” capitalist-“democracy.”
Much of my extended family is conservative and I still love them. However, if they went to the capitol and broke glass or threatened to kidnap one of our senators or representatives, could I forgive that? Would I disown them? Or would we just continue down the same path of not talking about politics and carrying on? We are all facing this same question on a national scale. How do you “punish” someone for a discreet act when that punishment will immediately be used as a tool in a deliberate propaganda campaign intended to further divide the country? This is the gaping wound trump has torn in the heart and soul of the American ideal.
We currently exist under minority rule and have for quite some time. (Most people who vote democratic don’t like the corporate dems who have dominated the party for the last 30+ years.) The one thing that has been a concensus among Washington DC elected leaders for a generation is that deregulation of business and lowering of taxes are generally a good thing and this has fueled a backlash among voters on both sides of the aisle. The difference is that the left-wing democratic base seems to be putting their energy into making sure more diverse voices are heard and historically underrepresented people have a seat at the table while the republican base would rather resort to violence to get their point across.
Now people on the right would accuse me if discounting the “violence” of the demonstrations in Portland and across the country over the summer. #whataboutism. The George Floyd protests were largely non-violent marches, some of which devolved into chaos late in the night after much provocation by police and federal law enforcement. The left was subject to all the “law and order” actions taken and continued to protest in the face of such actions taken by the state.
On the contrary with last week’s tragedy, right-wing revolutionaries were ASSISTED in their quest by so-called “law enforcement” personnel on multiple occasions. America is no longer America when laws only apply to some people and not others. America is no longer America when those in power got where they are by systemically using their power solely to amass more power and close avenues for others rather than inviting them to the table.
Maybe America was never America. I know that is exactly what Black people are trying to tell us, and they are probably right. The only way to move forward now is to resolve to do better. But how do we do that when one side is willing to use violence to ensure minority rule? Isn’t that the definition of a failed state?
There are no leaders in politics now who are capable of speaking to the entire country, to actually lead us to something greater. I thought, at the time, that Barack Obama was someone who maybe could speak to everyone, or at least a vast majority, but he was demonized on the right continually through his presidency. Unlike the current president who uses his white privilege to whine constantly about his own mistreatment and stoke feelings of grievance among all working class white folks across the country. It could not be more clear to see that there are two Americas.
All this to say, I clearly have no answers, but I want to be a part of the conversation. I still believe America’s strength is in the diversity of our population, but if half the country dies not agree and would rather use violence anytime they do not get their way, we cannot call our country a democracy any longer. I hope we keep trying to get better. The preamble to the constitution states that it was written “to form a more perfect union” and this is what we need now: someone in leadership taking bolds action steps to listen to and respond to all those who feel unheard and unrepresented.
In closing, here is the preamble to the constitution, emphasis mine.
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, ensure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.